Square Enix is rebooting the Tomb Raider franchise and, as seen from early images and yesterday’s press conferences, this Lara is younger, dirtier, and grittier than ever before.┬áDuring our E3 eyes-on only demonstration, two levels were shown: an expanded version of the cave sequence shown during yesterday’s Xbox 360 press conference, and a mountain village area, shown behind closed doors on the show floor.

The version of the game shown was only in alpha state but it still looked sharp. The fire and water effects show promise, and Lara’s larger character model (as compared to prior Tomb Raider games) showcases the game’s more serious and gritty tone really well. It also showcases the character expressions and animations, too.

This new Tomb Raider game looks very cinematic, almost to a fault. While it was very impressive looking and looked like it would make a fantastic movie, it looked as if the person demoing the game was actually playing very little of what was shown. While he did move Lara around the mountain village environment and show off how she moved more realistically on the ground and during jumps, all of the brief combat scenarios shown in the demo were quick-time events. This was a little disappointing. It would have been nice to see Lara use her bow or perhaps use her trademark pistols.

Going with the more realistic take on the game, however, Square Enix commented that when Lara took damage it would effect not only how she looked in game, but also how she moves and interacts in the environment. Another new addition in the reboot is how weather will impact the game. While this aspect was stated, and while it was raining during the mountain village part of the demo, it was nearly impossible to see how weather impacted anything regarding actual gameplay.

The game features context-sensitive UI elements illustrating places where the player can, for example, light something on fire with their torch. The game also has what Tomb Raider calls “survival instincts,” which essentially look like the detective mode from Batman: Arkham Asylum. They were quick to point out, however, that while certain elements in the level are highlighted in survival-instinct mode, the answer to the puzzle is not just shown to the player. The player still needs to interact with the world in the correct manner to progress. This aspect can be seen in the video shown during Microsoft’s Press Conference, as Lara used fire to escape from the cave.

Hopefully the full game will allow more exploration and freer combat in its final build. At this point it certainly has the cinematic aspect going for it, so hopefully it can deliver in the other areas, too.

One reason why the cut scenes and cinematic aspects of the game look so good might be because the developers at Crystal Dynamics took the Uncharted approach. That is, they filmed the actors actually interacting and delivering their lines, capturing facial expressions and body movements. Why more studios and developers haven’t copied this approach from Uncharted yet is beyond me. It was great in Uncharted, and it looks to deliver a great movie feel in Tomb Raider, too.

This new take on Tomb Raider is certainly one to watch. Hopefully gamers will be able to explore more and get hands on with the game soon.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited about this Tomb Raider reboot? Let us know your opiniona in the comments below.

Tomb Raider is scheduled to release late 2012 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.

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